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High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened

Editor's note: Click here for the latest on the High Park fire.

Update, 6:40 a.m. June 29: As those living near the Waldo Canyon fire outside Colorado Springs were plunged into terror (347 homes confirmed burned, at least one death), the people who've been suffering through the High Park fire fifteen miles from Fort Collins for three long, exhausting weeks may finally be getting a break.

Containment is at 85 percent -- which is not to suggest that the fire is 85 percent out.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The federal InciWeb page dedicated to High Park, updated last night, begins not with stats about new acreage consumed (the fire hasn't grown substantially in two days), but with the subject of reintegrating evacuated individuals into their neighborhoods -- a good sign if ever there was one. So, too, are the notes about rains that swept the area yesterday afternoon. The storm didn't dump a great deal of moisture: Amounts varied from .15 inches to a barely measurable trace. Yet every little bit helps.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

This tone is echoed by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, which points out in its most recent update that the past 36 hours have marked changes for the better in the fire zone. But while complete containment now seems within reach, the LCSO stresses that control of the fire is still a ways off. It may take "an act of nature such as prolonged rain or snowfall" to fully extinguish the blaze, and islands of fire are expected to burn within the perimeter of the zone for some time to come -- perhaps even months. But fuel that smolders on hillsides, as opposed to racing up them, offers the opportunity for an orderly return to the area for people who've been living out of suitcases and sleeping on couches for the better part of a month. The number of houses destroyed remains at 257.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Yesterday evening, a slew of subdivisions accessible by Rist Canyon Road were reopened. They include Pine Acres, Davis Ranch, Rist Canyon, Spring Valley, Whale Rock, Rist Creek, Stratton Park, Tip Top Ranch, Laurence Creek, Paradise Park, Stove Prairie Road from Buckhorn Road to Bent Timber Lane and Old Flowers Road from Stove Prairie Road to its 8000 block.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Right now, the acreage consumed is holding steady at 87,284, and 1,125 firefighters are hard at work trying to finalize the perimeter. That's roughly the personnel total toiling today at Waldo Canyon -- another indication that the High Park fire is no longer the fearsome beast it was mere days ago.

Below, see more photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, followed by our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, June 28, 6:35 a.m.: For nearly three weeks, the High Park fire outside of Fort Collins has been the highest-profile blaze in Colorado, and arguably the nation as a whole. Given yesterday's startling developments with the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, which consumed an estimated 300 homes-plus and more than doubled in size, that's no longer the case. But even if High Park firefighters finally appear to be gaining the upper hand, they can't rest on their laurels yet.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Last night's update on the federal InciWeb page focusing on High Park contains comparatively good news. The acreage consumed or engaged by the blaze stands at 87,284, meaning the fire didn't grow along its perimeter. Neither did the number of homes confirmed destroyed: 257, which stands as the current record for a Colorado wildfire -- although it'll be surpassed by Waldo Canyon once conditions in the Springs allow for a final count. And the containment ratcheted up again, this time to 75 percent.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Granted, there have been other positive days since High Park sparked to life earlier this month -- and many of them have been followed by grim setbacks. This time, though, fire managers are confident enough to have started sharing resources with crews fighting other fires in the state. The number of personnel at High Park is down to 1,313, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office notes, and while that's still a veritable army, it's down by about 700 from the largest sum.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

More good news: At 5 p.m. yesterday, authorities reopened Red Feather Lakes Road and allowed all residents of the Glacier View subdivisions save one to return to the area. The exception: The 12th Filing of Glacier View remains off-limits.

The weather conditions remain a problem, with high temperatures and low humidity forecast, and plenty of fuel is still available. With that in mind, the firefighting force will continue to hold and reinforce the current lines even as they begin mop-up operations in certain areas. Remote-sensing data from helicopters will also be analyzed to locate heat pockets in areas that have not yet been burned. Additionally, hazardous trees are being removed from roadways to allow power companies to restore electricity for residents being reintegrated into the community.

A return to normalcy? Not yet -- but there's hope. Look below to see more photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, followed by our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Update, 5:55 a.m. June 27: Other blazes across the state, including the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, became even larger problems yesterday. But the High Park fire outside Fort Collins remains the ongoing disaster against which all others in the state are being measured -- and it's still growing. And while containment is up, from 55 percent to 65 percent, over the past 24 hours, the feds believe total containment is still more than a month away.

The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

The federal InciWeb page devoted to High Park estimates that 87,284 acres have been consumed -- an increase of about 4,000 acres in a day. The weather continues to make the work of the 1,805 personnel on the scene more difficult. The Red Flag warning on Tuesday, denoting, hot, windy conditions (marked by occasional dry lightning), marked the sixth consecutive day for the designation.

Forecasters don't expect a sudden deluge of moisture to break the hot spell. The U.S. Forest Service notes that the weather is making live and dead fuels alike available for burning, and shifting wind direction and speed, coupled with thunderstorm gusts, are causing what's described as "active torching in islands" -- meaning pockets of land in the fire zone that somehow have avoided flames thus far. Crown fires in trees continue to take place at all hours.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

A mobile sensing helicopter is being used to locate the sort of heat that's capable of turning unburned areas into new concerns. Right now, there are at least seventeen choppers of assorted types on scene, as well as fixed wing support aircraft and available heavy air tankers, with "available" being the operative word. With so many fires breaking out in Colorado, and throughout the west, U.S. Forest Service resources are being stretched in what's likely an unprecedented manner.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Meanwhile, the official count of destroyed homes from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office is up again, from 248 to 257. That's more residences than are in plenty of Colorado communities. In more positive news, a few residents who live in the vicinity of Red Feather Lakes Road from CR37 to Maxwell Ranch Road were allowed to return yesterday, as were a batch in the Poudre Park neighborhood along Highway 14 between Manners Lane and Hewlett Gulch Road. And the LCSO hopes for a bigger reintegration in Rist Canyon circa 5 p.m. Thursday, at which point several hundred evacuees should be able to return home, conditions allowing.

Not that folks are under any illusions about a quick resolution to this situation. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that the blaze won't reach 100 percent containment until July 30. Yes, you read right: July 30.

Look below for more new Forest Service photos, followed by our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:45 a.m. June 26: After huge losses of ground and property over the weekend, crews slugging it out with the High Park fire near Fort Collins are currently holding their ground despite conditions just this side of appalling. The engaged acreage isn't rising at the previous rate -- a good thing, given that about 130 square miles have already been burned -- and containment is moving in the right direction again.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Here are the most recent basics, as supplied by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office: 83,262 acres consumed, 55 percent containment, $31.5 million spent thus far -- and the meter's still running. Number of personnel: 1,941, split up among thirteen Type 1 hand crews and twenty Type 2 hand crews, among other groups. Right now, 170 engines, eleven dozers, 24 water tenders, seven Type 1 helicopters, three Type 2 helicopters, nine Type 3 helicopters and five heavy air tankers are at war with the elements -- a significant portion of the equipment designated for fighting wildfires nationwide. That's how big a priority High Park remains.

According to the most recent update to the federal InciWeb page devoted to the disaster (new info was posted nine hours ago at this writing), the new team that took over command of the response on Sunday focused on line construction along the northern border of the fire and a burnout procedure on the west and southwest, where fire-backing consumed more land. Mop-up functions also took place in assorted locations along the blackened frontier -- those where pretty much all the damage that could be done has been already.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Some people whose homes have survived thus far (unlike those living in the confirmed 248 that haven't) are being allowed to return to them, including residents living from Willow Patch Lane and Buckhorn Road south, and from Feverfew Road and CR25E South, including Otter Road and those thoroughfares branching from it. But thousands remain dispersed throughout the area, waiting to go back home, and wondering what they'll find once they're given the all-clear.

Unfortunately, the weather isn't expected to improve as the day goes on. There's a Red Flag warning in effect from noon until 9 p.m., with fears of gusty thunderstorms, winds, very low humidity and, perhaps most frightening of all, dry lightning a possibility. The hot spell that's settled over northern Colorado couldn't be more ill-timed.

Below, see more photos courtesy of the Colorado National Guard, followed by our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:49 a.m. June 25: Friday morning, reps for those battling the High Park fire near Fort Collins expressed concern that dry, hot, windy conditions forecast for the weekend might give the blaze a chance to gain strength and power -- and unfortunately, they couldn't have been more correct. The acreage increased in size, the amount of containment fell, and the number of homes destroyed ballooned to a shocking 248. And that's just the total confirmed.

Wind pushes the fire upslope.
Wind pushes the fire upslope.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

According to the most recent update on the federal InciWeb page devoted to the long-running incident (two-weeks-plus and counting), the fire now stretches over 83,205 acres -- the second-largest in terms of territory in Colorado's history, behind only the Hayman fire ten years ago (north of 138,000 acres). But High Park tops another category: Hayman destroyed "only" 133 homes, just over half the number currently estimated to have been consumed by High Park.

Firefighters saved this historic school while the homes of some of them were burning the next ridge over.
Firefighters saved this historic school while the homes of some of them were burning the next ridge over.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Moreover, containment, which had held at 55 percent on Friday morning, has slipped to 45 percent due to the conflagration's enlargement.

A big factor has been the spot fire that bloomed in the Glacier View area -- although the word "spot" in this context seems entirely inadequate, given that it covers an estimated 10,000 acres, or 15.6 square miles, all by itself. It flared on Friday due largely to the presence of dry fuels and winds that gusted to 35 miles per hour. As noted by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, sprinklers were activated in the area before firefighters were forced to move back by the intensity of the flames.

Looking west from the communication towers on Buckhorn -- the ones from which Jack-FM broadcasts.
Looking west from the communication towers on Buckhorn -- the ones from which Jack-FM broadcasts.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Meanwhile, a containment line has been built and is being held north of the Poudre River -- not that those manning this perimeter will be able to rest easy. The LCSO points out that "large, unburned interior islands" continue to pose threats to homes on the interior of the fire. Hundreds of residences are still evacuated, and beetle-killed timber on the west and southwest portions of the fire seem poised to keep feeding the blaze in the near term, at least.

A deer in the burn area.
A deer in the burn area.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The plan for today, say the feds, includes strengthening the line on the north, monitoring areas with structures, heavily staffing the southwest lines (the number of firefighters overall is up to 2,037) and "holding on to what we've got."

Look below to see more photos of the fire and the surrounding area, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, followed by our previous coverage.

The fire plume as seen from the Granby area.
The fire plume as seen from the Granby area.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
The fire as seen from Stove Prairie Road.
The fire as seen from Stove Prairie Road.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
Firefighters prepare for a day in the field.
Firefighters prepare for a day in the field.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
One of the massive spot fires as seen on Friday.
One of the massive spot fires as seen on Friday.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
The origin of the fire is located beyond the second knoll.
The origin of the fire is located beyond the second knoll.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:48 p.m. June 22: Yesterday in the continuing war against the High Park fire near Fort Collins, crew members and Mother Nature fought each other to draw.

The number of acres burned and containment percentage held steady, at 68,200 and 55 percent respectively. But firefighters aren't complaining, especially given that weather conditions today are expected to be decent. Too bad they may not stay that way.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

According to last night's final update of the federal InciWeb page devoted to the incident, which started two weeks ago Saturday, 1,859 firefighters split their focus between maintaining containment lines and using burn-out operations to bring the fire to them, especially in the area south of Poudre Canyon near Mount McConnel. The idea is to hand-torch fuels that have not yet been consumed by the primary blaze, so that by the time the body of the fire reaches that point, there'll be nothing left to feed it.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

This approach will continue today, with supervisors eager to make as much progress as they can while the temperatures are in the 78 to 85 degree range, as forecast, and relative humidity hovers in the 15 to 20 percent range on the west side of the fire, and slightly higher to the east -- not great, but not terrible.

Nonetheless, a fire weather watch will be in effect throughout the day, and with Front Range temperatures expected to hit triple digits over the weekend, conditions could deteriorate fast. Winds are expected to pick up as the day goes on -- hence a Red Flag warning through 8 p.m. tomorrow.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Meanwhile, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office confirms that two more homes were added to the destruction list after a tour of the Whale Rock and Stove Prairie neighborhoods, bringing the total to 191. And although no homes have been lost as a result of burn-out operations, the LCSO is not yet ready to call this sum final.

The Sheriff's Office has established a web page featuring the most current road closures. Reps are also issuing reminders about proper disposal of waste, like this one: "Refrigerators and freezers coming to the landfill need to be emptied of their contents (safety for the technician pumping out the Freon). Freon containing appliances are stored until we get enough to call the technician to pump the Freon (usually once a month). Customers needing to dispose of this material can do this at the landfill, but they need to do this process in a different area (animal burial area) and then take the empty appliance to the appliance area."

Yes, we've gotten to that stage in a fire whose end is still not in sight about half a month after lightning sparked it to life. Look below to see more photos courtesy of the Colorado National Guard, followed by our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the Colorado National Guard

Update, 5:51 a.m. June 21: The High Park fire displayed its stubbornness once again yesterday. The media was allowed to inspect previously restricted terrain, and some people were allowed back into their homes -- yet the fire grew by approximately 8,000 acres over the course of the day and the containment percentage remains stuck at 55 percent despite weather conditions that were at least a bit more hospitable than the ones that preceded them.

The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

According to the most recent update on the federal InciWeb page devoted to the incident, the number of acres scorched stands at 68,200 acres, up from just under 60,000 acres at this time yesterday. And while cooler temperatures and higher humidity are said to have allowed firefighters to make progress on containment lines, the west flank of the fire was plenty hot, with crews rushing to torch unburned fuels between Pingree Park Road and the fire's edge in an effort to starve the flames once they arrive at that point.

The news from the Larimer County Sheriff's Office was better for many residents in Soldier Canyon and Mill Canyon Estates, much of Hewelett Gulch and Horsetooth, who have been allowed to return to their homes -- although they've been warned to be ready for rapid evacuation should the fire shifts again. As a bonus, some of them will actually have power, but that's not universal.

Meanwhile, the number of homes destroyed held steady at 189, but the LCSO is warning that this total could still rise. So, too, will the cost of battling the flames, which stands at $19.6 million. At present, 1,978 fire personnel and 132 engines are engaged in the mission, as is gear such as five bulldozers and six "feller grabbers," which cut and gather trees not entirely turned to ash.

Today's agenda? According to the U.S. Forest Service, "Continued structure triage and protection on the interior and exterior of the burn area; Continue direct control actions on unburned islands in the interior of the burn; Continued direct, indirect, and burnout actions along the Pingree Park road as the fire advances to the South and Southwest; Reinforce, defend, and patrol existing control lines; Continue to assess the need for evacuations in coordination with local law enforcement."

Look below to see more photos of the fire, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to see our earlier reporting, including more photos and videos.   Update, 5:49 a.m. June 20: The containment percentage of the High Park fire near Fort Collins continues to inch upward; it's now estimated at 55 percent.

Unfortunately, the number of acres blackened -- a sum just shy of 60,000 -- does likewise. But by the dreadful standards set by this historically destructive blaze, yesterday was positive.

The smoke plume as seen from West LaPorte Avenue in Fort Collins.
The smoke plume as seen from West LaPorte Avenue in Fort Collins.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The recently updated federal InciWeb page devoted to High Park notes that firefighters strengthened and held control lines at the southeast corner of the fire, and did likewise north of Buckhorn Road and south of Poudre Canyon, with the exception of a spot fire across Poudre Canyon near Sheep Mountain that was marked for battle throughout the night.

However, the fire grew on the west side of the 92-square-mile-plus zone, in the Cache La Poudre wilderness area. The flames were undoubtedly encouraged by winds that didn't reach the maximum feared under a Red Flag warning, but proved vigorous enough to challenge the 1,911 personnel the Larimer County Sheriff's Office counts on the ground and in the air.

The northwest perimeter of the fire near Rustic.
The northwest perimeter of the fire near Rustic.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The conditions prompted pre-evacuation orders for the Rustic area. Meanwhile, roaming patrols, National Guard staffers and video surveillance are being used to ensure that residences in the burn area don't fall victim to looters -- and while we haven't seen a flood of reports about such crimes, the bizarre case of faux-firefighter Michael Maher serves as a reminder that while disasters bring out the best in most people, this phenomenon isn't universal.

Smoke as scene from the firefighters' base camp.
Smoke as scene from the firefighters' base camp.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

No new homes have been confirmed destroyed, with the 189 residence figure holding steady. Approximately 1.3 million gallons of water had been dropped on the fire as of June 19, and more will be raining down today from the air squad, which includes seventeen helicopters. The estimated cost of fighting the lightning-sparked conflagration: $17.2 million and steadily clicking upward.

Look below to see the latest videos from the scene, followed by nearly two weeks' worth of previous coverage, replete with photos and additional clips.

Update, 5:53 a.m. June 19: At last, the High Park Fire near Fort Collins is at the 50 percent containment point. But this beast is far from tamed. At latest count, around 92 square miles have been blackened, and the number of homes destroyed has risen again, this time to 189. Moreover, the number of people battling the blaze is such that two separate parts of the Colorado State University system have been virtually taken over by firefighters.

The latest map of the fire zone at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
The latest map of the fire zone at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

As noted on the U.S. Forest Service InciWeb page devoted to the High Park Fire, yesterday's Red Flag warning, put in place due to the prospect of wind gusts up to fifty miles per hour, proved to be mainly precautionary. The breezes stayed relatively mild in the fire zone, giving the 1,773 folks on the scene a chance to boost the containment percentage a smidge rather than losing ground.

Their gains were modest due in part to temperatures in the nineties, which only exacerbated the already arid conditions. And given that there's another Red Flag warning for today, a setback isn't off the table.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office puts the cost of the operation to date at $14.7 million, and the loss of private property has been astonishing. Another assessment of the Buckhorn area down to Redstone Canyon revealed another eight homes had been wiped out, bringing the total to the aforementioned 189.

Meanwhile, a mandatory evacuation order remains in place for the area east of the Glacier View 9-12th Filings. As the LCSO notes, the new evacuation area is bounded on the east by Hewlett Gulch Trail, on the north by CR74E (Redfeather Lakes Road), on the west by the previous evacuation area and on the south to Highway 14 (Poudre Canyon Road). Evacs have also been issued for the Soldier Canyon and Mill Canyon areas, and pre-evacuation notices have been sent to those living in the Shoreline Road area south of Lory State Park. For a complete list, check www.Larimer.org.emergency.

As the response continues, CSU has become a nexus for activity of the non-scholastic sort. Larimer County has opened the High Park Fire Disaster Recovery Center at Johnson Hall, and firefighters are staging at the main campus, as well as the Pingree Park satellite.

Photos from CSU follow these new shots of the conflagration, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see photos from CSU's main and Pingree Park campus, followed by our previous coverage.  

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our earlier coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:50 a.m. June 18: Today could be among the most challenging for crews battling the High Park Fire, which has raged for well over a week and remains a serious threat to life and property. A red flag warning for winds gusting to fifty miles per hour is in place, and the scorching temperatures forecast will only add to the hell-on-earth sensation felt by those on the ground -- not to mention the hundreds whose homes and properties have been destroyed.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The numbers continue to stagger. According to the U.S. Forest Service InciWeb page devoted to the High Park fire, 56,480 acres of land west of Fort Collins has been consumed since the blaze was sparked by lightning a week ago Saturday. Containment is now listed at 45 percent, yet the Larimer County Sheriff's Office confirms that the fire still managed to race across another 1,000 acres of previously unburned land on the southest side of the zone, in the Laurence Creek Lane and Redstone area.

Meanwhile, evacuations continue. In anticipation of high winds today of the sort also experienced on Sunday, an evacuation order is in place for the Hewlett Gulch subdivision, with 96 notices going out. In addition, evacs have been delivered in the Soldier Canyon and Mill Canyon areas, with 331 households notified.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Meanwhile, the LCSO has come out with a new list of homes destroyed, and there are 181 addresses on it. The cost to fight the fire to date is now up to $12.6 million, and the money meter continues to click away steadily, what with an estimated 1,748 personnel engaged at this point, not to mention the deployment of enough helicopters and other gear to keep a battalion busy.

And then there's this line from the U.S. Forest Service's latest info release -- one disturbing in its implications: "Resistance to control is high."

Look below to see several new videos from folks in the area, plus the latest snaps shared by the Forest Service. Then page down to see our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:55 a.m. June 15: No sleeping easy for folks living in the vicinity of the High Park fire near Fort Collins.

At 11 p.m. last night, residents of the Glacier View area, representing 200 households or so, received emergency evacuation notifications regarding the blaze, whose containment percentage continues to inch upward -- but so does the amount of acreage burned.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

According to the most recent post on the InciWeb page devoted to the disaster (it was updated just five hours ago at this writing), the number of acres burned is estimated at a jaw-slackening 52,000, up from just shy of 47,000 at this time yesterday. The containment, too, has risen, from 10 percent to 15 percent. But flare-ups continue to occur. The evacuation order for Glacier View, including the area east from Eiger Road to Rams Horn Mountain Road and north from the Mount Blanc Guardian peak area to the north end of Mount Everest Drive, was issued due to what's described as a "spot fire" -- presumably the sixty-100 acre scorcher on the north side of Poudre Canyon near Steven's Gulch. It was exacerbated by a late afternoon thunderstorm cell that parked over the southwest corner of the fire, causing down-drafts that revved up the flames.

Note that this particular spot isn't even the largest reported to date. Another one fitted with this description stretched over 120 acres. That's an enormous spot.

The Glacier View evacs built throughout the early evening. At 5:15 p.m., fire officials preceded this edict with an order for those in eighty residences along Many Thunders Road and south into the 12 Filing of Glacier View to leave their homes for safer shelter.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

In the meantime, we're hearing more about destroyed structures -- the subject of mainly estimates before now. Thus far, 31 homeowners from the Stratton Park and Pine Acres neighborhoods, as well as those in other parts of Poudre Canyon, have been told their places didn't survive. On top of that, seventeen more homes in the Poudre Canyon from Stove Prairie to the mouth of the canyon are confirmed destroyed -- and unfortunately, no one believes the total will end there.

The number of personnel fighting the fire is up to 1,387. Meanwhile, Governor John Hickenlooper has announced a statewide burning ban, to include the use of fireworks -- all to prevent more blazes like this one from starting. Cost of fighting High Park to date: $7.2 million and rising.

Below, see a new video from the Glacier View area, followed by fresh photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Update 5:51 a.m. June 14: Gaining the upper hand against the High Park fire has been extremely difficult for firefighters.

Despite a massive expenditure of resources in terms of both equipment and personnel, the blaze gained in size yesterday, albeit modestly, with containment at just 10 percent and the potential for further growth labeled as "extreme."

The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
The latest map of the fire at this writing, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

This last term can be found on the U.S. Forest Service InciWeb page related to the conflagration. According to the most recent update, posted late last night, the size of the fire is estimated at 46,820 acres, with the west side of the zone, where approximately 70 percent of the trees have been killed by pine beetles, causing the most concern. Hence the continued evacuation, which has impacted more than 600 homes to date. There's been one casualty thus far: Linda Steadman, 62, who perished in her beloved cabin.

The army of firefighters has grown to 1,263, more or less doubling in a single day. As noted by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, the ranks include fifty military police from the Colorado-Wyoming National Guard, who are manning roadblocks.

Some evacuations have been lifted -- notably those in the Shoreline Drive and Bellvue area from County Road 27E to the east. And more may be possible if the weather holds (temps are expected to be cooler, with humidity in the 14-18 percent range) and tactics like a burnout operation in the southern portion of the fire that reinforced fire lines prove successful. But no one is under any illusions about the fire being on the cusp of a mop-up. There are too many flames and too much fuel for that at this stage.

Look below to see new videos of the scene, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down for our previous coverage, including photos and videos.   Update, 5:56 a.m. June 13: Those battling the High Park fire near Fort Collins made some progress yesterday. Containment rose from 0 percent to 10 percent by last night, and while the blaze keeps expanding, its rate of growth is slowing; it added around 2,000 acres to its present total of 43,000-plus after more than doubling the day before. But the rise of a so-called "spot fire" 120 acres in size shows just how dangerous the situation remains. And that's not to mention the smoke.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

The InciWeb page devoted to the High Park fire points out that 634 personnel were on site as of yesterday -- meaning 200 more folks were on the lines and in the air than 24 hours earlier. Also employed: five heavy air tankers, five SEATs (single engine air tankers), four Type 1 heavy helitankers, three Type 2 helicopters, four Type 3 helicopter, three Blackhawk helicopers and 37 engines -- and additional resources have been ordered. The cost to date is estimated at $3 million.

Meanwhile, the evacuation situation remains very fluid. According to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, the evacuation area south of County Road 38E from Gindler Ranch Road west to Milner Ranch Road was lifted, with residents given the all-clear to return to their homes as of noon yesterday. However, evacuation orders were issued for the entire Pingree Park Road area, to include Hourglass and Comanche Reservoirs, east on the Buckhorn Road up to and including Pennock Pass, northeast to the intersection of Stove Prairie Road and Highway 14, and west to the intersection of Highway 14 and Pingree Park Road. And future evacs remain possible, particularly on the west side of the fire, where an estimated 70 percent of the trees have been killed by pine beetles, transforming them into ideal tinder.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

In the meantime, authorities are describing the number of structures impacted by the fire as "undetermined" -- that after an LCSO rep suggested that more than 100 could have been damaged or destroyed. Music lovers have been keeping a particularly close eye on the Mishawaka Amphitheatre, whose Facebook page has become a good stopping spot for updates. Here's the most recent note, posted last night, which puts the situation in perspective:

The news reports confirm our understanding that the Northwest edge of the fire remains very threatening to the Mish, but that she remains undamaged at this point.

We want to reiterate how devastated we are by the horrific loss throughout the affected areas. While loved by all of us, the Mish is but a business -- many, many people have lost much more.

Our hopes and payers continue to go out to everyone negatively affected and those still on harm's way.

Speaking of perspective, the following video offers plenty: It was shot on Sunday from a plane flying from Portland to Chicago. That's followed by more vivid photos courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and our previous coverage.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see more photos and our previous coverage.  

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Page down to see our previous coverage, complete with photos and videos.  

Update, 5:47 a.m. June 12: The High Park Fire has claimed its first casualty: Linda Steadman, 62. As noted by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, the " mother, grandmother, sister and wife perished in the cabin she loved."

This eloquent line puts a human dimension on a blaze that doubled in size yesterday and continues to grow. Here's the latest at this writing.

According to the latest U.S. Forest Service update, shared on the fire's InciWeb page, approximately 41,400 acres have been consumed since the conflagration sparked to life early Saturday morning due to lightning that struck the dry fuel spread over the area. That's an enormous increase; recall that yesterday morning at this time, the size of the fire was estimated at 20,000 acres.

The number of firefighters trying to contain the fire, raging out of control about fifteen miles from Fort Collins, was approximately 400 by day's end. That total is expected to increase to between 500 and 600 today -- an indication of how much of a national priority this disaster has become. The number of structures incinerated remains officially undetermined, and while the sheriff's office has suggested that the sum could already exceed one hundred, its latest release includes this caveat: "There are many unburned areas within the perimeter of the fire, so residents should not assume their homes are damaged or destroyed."

Today presents a good news-bad news scenario. On the positive side, the fire "looked better" last night than the night before, the sheriff's office maintains. But yesterday's cooler weather, which provided at least a minor assist to firefighters, is expected to be supplanted by warmer, drier conditions marked by wind gusts of up to eighteen miles per hour.

Here are some of the latest user-generated videos from the scene, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to read our previous coverage.   Update, 11:50 a.m. June 11:: At this writing, the news about the High Park fire about fifteen miles from Fort Collins is the opposite of good. The amount of acreage burned has leaped up from around 20,000 late yesterday to around 37,000, and a Larimer Sheriff's rep suggests that the number of burned structures, previously estimated at eighteen, could actually be north of 100.

Eighteen is still the number mentioned on the InciWeb page for the fire, but tweets from a variety of news agencies covering the latest news conference are using the 100-plus structure estimate.

The press is being asked not to show photos of the destroyed homes, etc., out of deference to owners -- at least not until the destruction has been confirmed and those individuals have been contacted and informed.

Containment is still at 0 percent. See our earlier coverage below.

Original item, 5:55 a.m. June 11: All of Colorado is at risk for serious blazes this year -- but the area around Fort Collins has already been hard hit.

Less than a month since the stubborn Hewlett fire finally flamed out, the High Park fire has grown to about triple the previous conflagration's size, and it's continuing to get bigger. Photos and videos below.

According to the latest update on the U.S. Forest Service's High Park fire InciWeb page, updated about seven hours ago at this writing, the flames' origins can be traced to approximately 5:54 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 9 -- and unlike the Hewlett fire, which investigators believe was started by a spark from James Weber's alcohol-fueled stove, nature rather than a human being appears to be the culprit, via a lightning strike. From there, wind fueled the fire, which spread quickly over rugged land around fifteen miles west of Fort Collins. Thus far, 20,000 acres have been consumed, and containment is estimated at 0 percent.

Here's a look at the most recent map showing the outlines of the blaze.

High Park fire update: 85 percent containment, many subdivisions reopened

The Forest Service warns about visibility concerns along Highway 287, but the smoke has spread far beyond that point. Indeed, folks throughout the Denver area couldn't help noticing the hazy skies and scent of smoke in the air throughout yesterday.

On Sunday, eight twenty-member crews were joined by a slew of additional firefighters and plenty of equipment: five single-engine air tankers, known as SEATs, two Type 1 helitankers, two Type 3 helicopters, three heavy air tankers and a lead plane, in addition to fifteen engines.

A Type 1 management team is expected to take over management of the fire today. In the meantime, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office catalogs the destruction to date:

• Eighteen structures -- a mix of homes and outbuildings -- have been confirmed damaged, but there could be more. Worse, CBS4 reports that a thus-far-unidentified person who's home was destroyed on Old Flowers Road is missing.

• One firefighter was ambulanced out of the area for heat exhaustion yesterday.

• The original evacuation center, at Cache La Poudre Middle School in Laporte, has been changed to the Ranch at I-25 and Crossroads Boulevard due to increasing smoke in the Laporte area. Large animals can be taken there, while smaller animals should go to the Larimer Humane Society.

Click here for the latest InciWeb info, and look below to see user-generated videos of the fire to date.

Page down to see more High Park fire videos.  

Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our News archive: "Hewlett fire photos: James Weber on hook for $300 fine, $2.9 million in restitution?"


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